Aug 6

Moving to Paris: Part 1

I am missing Paris this week. We have been home three months now and I have been trying to process the whole experience. I wanted to write down my thoughts on the subject before I forget everything. Moving abroad was definitely one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Before we went Paul and I had always talked about moving abroad like a lot of people do. But the motivation really came when I was at a photo shoot for Anthology Magazine and the photographer and the artist (whose home we were shooting) were talking about the time they each had spent in Paris. And it sort of clicked, I realized that a lot of creative people I knew had “done their time” in Paris. I don’t think moving to Paris is necessary for being creative but I decided if there was any way we could make it happen, we should try.

We started to research about visas and we realized if we could both keep our jobs and work remotely from Paris then we wouldn’t have to go through the challenges of finding a job and getting a work visa (very difficult). We were also happy to find out that rent in Paris is cheaper than in San Francisco. Our two bedroom apartment in Paris which was in a nice neighborhood and had a small view of the Eiffel Tower was about $2500/month. In San Francisco a two bedroom in an equivalent neighborhood would be more like $3200/month. If you don’t live in a city that probably sounds like a lot but all the New Yorkers reading this I’m sure are rolling their eyes about how affordable it is! (On a sidenote, my sister moved to the French countryside at the same time and they have a huge Farmhouse for about $1500/month. She covers all of that in this post.)

The financial aspect for me was the most frightening. I don’t get nervous very often but it was terrifying putting ourselves in a place where we weren’t sure how much we would make (as freelancers our income is always inconsistent) or how much our monthly expenses would be. Sometimes people use words like “lucky” about us moving to Paris, and I know we are. But I want to sit them down and explain to them how scary it was moving to France. It put us so far out of our comfort zone in every way possible. We didn’t speak French, we didn’t know a soul, we didn’t even have a place to live, or (continue reading below)

even have hard numbers of how much it would cost.

We applied for long stay tourist visas at the French consulate in San Francisco. I made an appointment three months in advance of our tentative flight date and then started preparing the documentation. This should have been a clue at the¬†bureaucracy¬†we would face when we moved there. They pretty much wanted every document that ever existed pertaining to all four of us. And the copies! They wanted 3-4 copies of each document. I put together an extremely organized and detailed binder with every possible document they could ask for. They also wanted proof of income so we had to show all our bank account statements (we made sure to print it out before we had to pay our bills that month so it looked nice and full.) And they wanted letters from our employers that they were planning to continue employing us while we were in France. With a long stay tourist visa you are required to maintain your US insurance policy so we got a letter from our insurance agent saying our policy was still in effect and that if we needed to be flown back to the US for medical treatment they would cover it. They also asked for our place of residency in France. We didn’t have an apartment yet but were tentatively planning on renting a temporary apartment for a month while we searched for a permanent place. The owner of the apartment gave us a letter indicating that we were planning on staying there while we looked. When we went in to our visa appointments we dressed very formally and tried to make a good impression. They called us a few days later and asked us about our plane tickets. There was a place on the application where they wanted you to book the tickets before you got approved. It made me nervous to buy the tickets before they were even approved so I had left that part blank. On the phone they told me to purchase the plane tickets and bring them in the next day and they would issue our visa.

We were so nervous and excited. Up to that point we had spent a few hundred dollars on visa applications but we could’ve still backed out of the whole thing. Buying the plane tickets was expensive and once we did that we couldn’t go back. So scary!!! We had a nice long discussion about if we should really do it debating all the pros and cons and after some deliberation that evening we purchased our non refundable direct flights to Paris, France. We picked up our official French visas the next day and we were on our way! (to be continued…)

90 Comments

  • Gina says:

    Amazing. I’d love to travel one day, and live abroad! It’s crazy how you did it WITH kids!

    http://www.eatblogpray.blogspot.com
    xo

  • Trey says:

    So excited for this series! It sounds like an amazing experience!

    stripesnsprinkles.blogspot.com

  • I admire you for taking the adventure!
    We just returned this past Friday from a month in Paris. It was amazing and the kids LOVED it! As photographers, we also have the ability to kind of pack up and go and what better place to go than Paris! We love adventure, love to take chances and love taking great photographs in great places. A few kids sessions and engagement sessions definitely helped offset the expense – and tons to blog about (http://blog.keithpitts.com).
    Thanks for sharing your story. I imagine it will motivate countless people to go live their dream!

  • It takes some major energy, guts and serious motivation/organization to do what you all did. I feel proud of you just reading this! I so admire people who just get. up. and GO.

  • This is awesome to read these details about your adventure. Moving abroad for a year or so is something my husband and I would love to do at some point — I’m bookmarking this post (and the subsequent ones) in the bookmark folder I have dedicated to visa/expat experiences like this! You’re such an inspiration to me!

  • esperanza b says:

    I loved this post, you feel closest thing that does not always happen … Thank you for sharing this adventure with us.

  • Dana says:

    This is definitely on our agenda. Thanks for the real-world details on making a dream a reality!

  • good for you that you did this! And for the record, the “adjustment melancholy” hangs for awhile but i promise somewhere between 6 months and 9 months at home you’ll hit your stride 110% again. it takes a while to get used to the place we know best ;)

  • Can’t wait to read the next installment…or the book!

  • Stephanie says:

    love reading this! thanks for sharing!!

  • Keely says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I can’t wait to hear more :) My husband and I are always talking about wanting to move somewhere for a year or two with the kids, reading this makes me feel like someday, just maybe we can do it!

  • Rebekah says:

    We are moving to Ireland at the end of the month, and have previously lived in Nicaragua. Each has been a completely unique experience, and well worth it.

  • Kelly says:

    LOVE this! Thanks for providing all of the nitty gritty details. I’m an expat in Vienna (moved with my husband’s job) and it was hard for us to make the leap – going from 2 incomes to 1 in a new currency, with a different cost/std of living was HARD.

  • Thank you so much for posting this! Living abroad is something I have been thinking about more and more so all these PRACTICAL steps/details are super helpful at getting an idea what to expect!!

  • Sandra says:

    I lived in Cape Town for two years and the adjustment to returning home wasMUCH more of a challenge than settling in there. No one understood my experience. You WILL adjust, like New Diplomats Wife says.

    The man has a sabbatical in a few years and living in Europe is calling. Life is short and all that – hard to resist the siren song of living overseas again!

  • Fergi says:

    You lucky ducks! I wish that would happen to me

  • rubi says:

    we miss you. the end.

  • josephine says:

    I have never read a blog post more carefully and thoroughly! Thank you for sharing your story, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

  • Phoebe says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post! I have been thinking about moving to France, and it’s been so helpful to hear about all the little details!

  • Michelle Bousfield says:

    You guys were brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Peg Bird says:

    Jordan…we STILL talk about our time abroad and are always making plans to return…This post makes me very nostalgic.

  • Nicx says:

    Congratulations on taking the jump and moving internationally for a time.

    We followed my husbands job to Switzerland almost 3 years ago, we had no idea what the outcome would be but ultimately decided that the worst that could happen was that we would hate it and have to move back to Australia. I don’t regret it at all! Even though it resulted in some really scary things (me giving up my conventional job and career for example) it also gave us such a wonderful world view and the ability to travel to places we’d only every dreamed of seeing… let alone visiting Paris and London more than 4 times in two years!

    The only problem about doing an international move once is that it’s addictive and you want to do it over and over! As you mention in your post, it’s got it’s pro’s and con’s but ultimately it’s such a wonderful life!

    I hope you’re all dealing with the reverse culture shock ok?

  • Duaba says:

    The visa process seems so nerve wracking but hey! It was all worth it in the end right?! I wish my work gave me the freedom to move to France!

  • Looking forward to reading all this. My boy and I decided to move from Australia to Holland and I know what you mean about people saying you are lucky. Yes, I am but I also worked my butt off to make it happen. Lovely reading!

  • Sara says:

    Jordan, your experience has really inspired my husband and I. We have been discussing moving abroad for about a year now. We plan to hopefully move to Europe in the next couple of years. We want to eliminate our debit so we feel more comfortable packing up our lives here and moving abroad. I have been following you for a few months and I am truly grateful you have posted your experiences on Oh Happy Day! It is nice to know that it is attainable more so than I had expected. I look forward to reading more about your Paris experience. Thanks so much!! :)

  • Christin says:

    I want to do this SO bad and so does my boyfriend but I’m utterly terrified. I think this series will definitely help me stop freaking out!

  • I can’t wait to read the rest! I LOVE Paris…I just need to figure out a way to move over there for a while, like you did!

  • Caitlin says:

    I had been following your entire journey, as I started reading your blog at least a year before you wrote that you were considering your move to Paris.

    It has been such a joy to witness this process. I admire your family’s courage to take the risk, especially as I am always known as a bit of a dreamer and have to convince others in my life that stuff like this is possible and WORTH all the trouble! :)

    When you moved to Paris, your love of the city and the quality of life there was evident in your writing – it was magical to experience it, even secondhand through the computer.

    And now, it is so generous of you to include all the details of your experience – thank you!

  • Very excited to read along — I found your site because of the Paris portion of your life and am so beyond fascinated (and jealous) that you followed your dreams and instincts…with two kids in tow!

  • Very cool, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. I have to stay I have been SUPER impressed by how your sister managed it all with 6 or more kids + living in the French country side (where people are often not very open-minded).
    I have lived abroad ever since I was 21 years old (starting with Italy) and I have been in Asia for nearly 8 years now (Japan, Thailand and Singapore). I don’t want to hear about moving back to France (ever), it’s so exciting to be living abroad.
    This said, we are always moving thanks to my husband’s job, and it makes the whole thing SO MUCH EASIER.
    Congrats for what you have done, as a family, I am sure you will always have fond memories of your time in France!

  • kelly says:

    inspiring!!! you’ve got me thinking…:) can’t wait for the rest of the series.

  • Kaity says:

    I really can’t wait to read the rest of this story! One of my big life dreams is to live in France for an extended period of time [not just the two months I spent studying abroad]. I’m majoring in French at college, and the more classes I take/the more I study and learn about this wonderful country and its culture, the more intense my desire to live in France becomes. it’s getting hard to handle. but I love getting to live vicariously through reading blogs and posts about life in France!

  • Kristen says:

    I too have followed your blog for years and was amazed when you (and your sister) were moving to Paris. I think it’s remarkable. Luck had nothing to do with it! It’s all the work, preparation, planning and GUTS you all (you, Paul, The Blairs) made it happen. Bravo to you all!

  • my husband and I really want to do this too (I am a blogger and he is a writer & actor) and we have a toddler and are thinking about a 2nd. (I wonder if being pregnant or giving birth would be better to do before a move or after?) I loved following your brave move & stay in Paris and your recap & experience is so helpful. Hope to follow in your footsteps one day…

  • Welcome back, and congratulations on achieving what most of us can only dream of. Vive la France! I’m hoping you are going to continue to enlighten us with more chic inspiration as you settle back in to life in the States. Bonne Chance! xo {haydee}

  • Michelle A says:

    reminds me of your post-it on the fridge. I still can’t believe you DID IT! You lived there for a whole year! So proud of you guys.

  • Ruby says:

    I’m curious, How was it for your toddlers?
    Are they naturally calm children and made friends easily?
    How has living in France changed your view/outlook as a parent? or has it not changed at all?

    TY

  • I’m completely inspired. I adore paris and have been doing my “favorite things in Paris posts” (http://acollectionofpassions.com/tag/paris-list/) and it makes me want to go back… to move there. You are a true inspiration.

    Kacie

  • I absolutely love that you are writing about this!! I am looking forward to the next posts!

  • leo says:

    I’m surprised they allowed you to continue working on the long stay tourist visa. Also a freelancer who doesn’t need to be any place in particular for work, I moved to Paris on a long stay tourist visa, but they were very clear that I was not to be employed in any way–even from a US company. (I read somewhere that that would technically be considered having a “virtual office” in France, which might require you to pay taxes.) As for the income guarantee, I got around it all, however, by having my parents say they would provide a stipend (even though they didn’t).

  • fascinating! I’m currently reading ‘bringing up bebe’ so I am very much in the “mood” to read your story!

  • Margie says:

    Yikes! You are so gutsy and brave! I’m looking forward to part 2.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us! This is definitely a dream of mine one day– and yes, to do so with children– so hearing the real nitty gritty of your adventure is so appreciated!

  • Stephanie says:

    Jordan – thanks so much for this post! My husband and I are leaving SF in a few short weeks to spend a year backpacking in India and Southeast Asia. I’m 29 and he’s 36…so we beyond the age where many people think of it as a youthful rite of passage (though we are still, obviously, very young). We’ve had countless people tell us how lucky we are…and, while it’s true we are lucky to live in a place and a time that allows us to choose our own paths, I sometimes find the “you’re so lucky” comment a bit insulting. We have worked SO hard for this goal. We have saved every penny. We are risking our careers. We have planned and planned and planned and we have dealt with crazy hiccups along the way. To me, it’s no different than any other big goal – buying a house, making a career change, raising a family. You choose your priorities and you work hard to make them happen. Reaching these goals warrants a “Congratulations!”…not a “You’re so lucky.” Attributing my successes in the things I’ve gone after in life to luck undermines the hard work put into it. So, to you, I say CONGRATULATIONS for making your dream (however lofty) a reality. (I am blogging about our trip and preparations, and wrote a post on this EXACT topic here: http://www.looseoflimits.com/2012/06/youre-so-lucky.html.)

  • Love this post. I think it’s great that you go into detail. Yes you and your husband were “lucky” enough to keep your incomes but this post also shows that you both took a great leap into the unknown, and with kids!

  • Marissa says:

    My husband and I are moving to Copenhagen in 18 months. I want to make sure we are super prepared, so thanks a million for sharing your details! I’m also interested in how you managed a travel visa– my husband will wor locally in Denmark (on a U.S. payroll I think) and I will work remotely for a U.S. company. We’ll only be there 6 months and don’t want to be hit with their crazy high taxes!

  • ash says:

    I am the other way around, we moved away from San Fran a while back and I am missing it like CRAZY!!!

    (but yes, paris is my favorite non us city)

  • Caddy says:

    Thank you for sharing this post! I love reading about how other people are making their dreams happen!

  • Amanda says:

    This is so exciting! I found myself holding my breath even though I know that you moved there and loved it!

  • Christy says:

    I love reading the details of your year in Paris and can’t wait to hear more! We are leaving for 9 months of traveling with our 2 young children next week We will begin in Santa Monica, California and then on to Sydney, Australia for 3 months and to Paris for 3 months. If everything works out, we would love to stay in France for a year.
    We will be blogging about our adventure here http://oliverjuliet.blogspot.com/

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